FINANCIAL DEVIATION and misappropriation of MGNREGS funds worth at least Rs 2 crore has been detected in Kerala during a social audit conducted in a section of village panchayats in four months of last fiscal.
The audit report was prepared by Kerala Social Audit Society in 296 out of the 941 village panchayats. The audit was conducted from December last year to March this year.
“The actual magnitude of the looting of the Centre’s fund would be much more as the audit was held only in a section of panchayats, that too only for four months,” said a source in the Kerala Social Audit Society.
“The social audit, a crucial mandatory component of the MGNREGS, could not be conducted in majority of the panchayats for want of village resource persons, who vet the implementation of the scheme at the grassroots level,” the source said.
Kerala Social Audit Unit Director N Ramakanthan said the findings of the social audit have been communicated to the respective Collectors in all districts. “It is the responsibility of the Collectors to recover the money, which had been siphoned out in various ways,” he said.
According to sources, funds were misappropriated in many ways – largely through fake entries in the muster roll. Payments were illegally made to accounts of those who have not worked, those who are abroad and even to accounts of government employees at civic bodies.
In works meant for asset creation, fake bills were submitted to pocket money. Local politicians, belonging to parties which rule the panchayats, were found to have made fake muster rolls during civil works undertaken as part of asset creation. Many works, which were not sanctioned or allowed under the scheme, were found implemented. Instead of MGNREGS workers in the roll, many panchayats introduced contractors with the connivance of local politicians, to pocket money with fake muster rolls.
Sources said the social audit has been facing stiff resistance in many village panchayats from both the CPI(M) and Congress, the parties which rule more than 90 per cent of the local bodies.
Ramakanthan said social audits cannot be conducted in all panchayats in Kerala since village resource persons could be appointed in only one third of the local bodies. “The Union Ministry of Rural Development has to release the fund for the social audit society. In the last fiscal, we were eligible to get Rs 22 crore, but we got only Rs 4 crore. As there is delay in funds from the Union ministry, we could not appoint village resources persons in all local bodies in the state,” he said.
“Many village resource persons had quit the job as there was no payment. If social audit is not held, the Centre would not release the fund envisaged in the labour budget of the scheme. Hence, to avert a crisis, the audit society had borrowed Rs 3 crore from the state government,’’ said Ramakanthan.